I've been just handed a blessing. After 15 years at my company, I will be laid off in early January. I have many frequent flier miles on a whole host of airlines. I am fine travelling by myself or with a group... and would prefer a combination. I even speak some Spanish. I've travelled through more than 20 states in Mexico but have never gone further south. Usually I enjoy the planning stages of my adventures, but this time don't have the luxury to plan. However, I do have the luxury to be spontaneous. I would like to travel on a budget as I may be gone for 1-3 months. So fellow flyertalkers..... what are your recommendations for places for me to go or not to miss? I live in Seattle and have the opportunity to winter in Florida (which could be a good launching point for the trip). I look forward to your response.
You could not have picked a better time to travel through "Central America" starting as I did in Cancun and just travelling down through Belize into Honduras and Guat then all the way down to Panama by bus.
www.ticabus.com is a treat but I just used ordinary long distance buses jumping on appox 0800 and jumping off 1200,4hrs max and having greatdays beachbuming or citybuming,sometimes on Pacific,sometimes on the Caribbean coast!!!!!!!!
Just have Lonely Planet Central America and budget as you like,it was really cheap and I stayed DB en-suite,sometimes in Hostels and met lots of travellers from all over the world.
I flew from Panama to Cartegena and Columbia was a very friendly country,probally the friendist on my journey,Caracas was friendly as well but everywhere was great and it was the trip of a lifetime.
Have a nice one wherever you go.
al de bes
While it's nice to have frequent flyer miles, I am not sure if they will help out here. Generally if you are travelling around for an extended period without plan, you will be taking one way flights with little advanced knowledge. Plus flights within South America are pretty cheap, and it's not worth wasting your airmiles on. What you might think about doing is converting airmiles to hotel points and booking a few luxury stops along the way. I have found that it's always nice when backpacking to have a few days at a 5 star hotel now and again.
Either you could set off from Mexico / Belize as jackboy suggested and head south via bus through Central America. I haven't seen it, but I have always wanted to see Tikal in Guatamela. Lots of good beaches and good inland adventure through Guatamela, Costa Rica and Panama.
Or you could think about flying South to Patagonia / Argentina and heading north from there (might be a good use of the airmiles, though they usually frown on one-way flights. You could just ditch the second half of the flight, of course). Patagonia is quite nice (though a little chilly) in January and February, then you could head north to see Peru / Bolivia and the Inca empire, and then across to Brazil.
3 months isn't actually that much time once you get started, you will find. For each month, I would think about 1 country in South America, or maybe 2 in Central America. The countries are big and very interesting and you don't want to spend too much time on travelling between points.
I could make a list of recommendations of things to do/places to see but the list would literally take me hours to compile.
Start in Buenos Aires (good central starting point) and see as much as you can from there. North and south in Argentina, Colonia and Montevideo in uruguay, Mendoza and the Andes, Santiago etc. the list goes on and on!
For accomodations you can take a look at:
Numero1 said it all in his or her post....."I could make a list of recommendations of things to do/places to see but the list would literally take me hours to compile."
One of the best, and a little utilized resource for first time or repeat travellers to South America is
South America for Visitors (with bi lingual message boards..forums)
Join www.about.com and utilize the site
remember, to a first time traveller "I've been to --- ---- and ---- taken that bus, this boat, stayed in such and such a lodge" means nothing..start with South America Visitors, get expert advice from bi lingual South American residents (one has a huge photo gallery on the forum and will find out about hotels and resorts for you in Argentina, Chile etc.)then when you are oriented buy the best guide books you can find as well as maps of the area you intend to visit..there is also an excellent travel operator based in USA, on the internet who specializes only in Latin travel with consolidated airfares, send me a message for their url.